4th year panic


My 4 year deadline is at the end of October and I'm starting to panic. I have 2 results chapters close to being finished but I seem to have a mental block on them and am struggling to get them completed. The third chapter still has what seems like loads of data analysis left to do. My literature review needs updating with a lot of editing and some reorganisation. I feel like I don't have a clue how I'm going to write a discussion/conclusions chapter linking everything together. There are students in their 3rd year in my department who are planning on submitting around the same time as me. I know everyone's project turns out differently but it still makes me feel a bit shit that they will have taken a whole year less than me to get it done.

I've known for nearly a year now that I don't want to go into academia and was hoping that I'd be done with all of this by now but I just don't seem to be able to get the damn thesis finished. Thoughts of quitting have entered my mind repeatedly over the last year but as I transferred uni's at around 18 months in to follow my supervisor and convinced my boyfriend the move was a good idea (we live together), I kept deciding to just stick it out. I know I have to get this finished but I'm struggling with a lack of confidence and fear that I'll crash and burn in the viva and that the last 4 years of my life will have been wasted.

Sorry this is probably garbled, I just needed to vent.


Finishing within 3 years is unusual and I know it’s difficult not to but comparing yourself to these students really isn’t going to help. I'm amazed at how quickly some students seem to work but everyone is different and every thesis is different.

Your progress sounds pretty normal to me, especially the feelings of panic about still having so much to do. Two almost-complete results chapters is a good starting point going into your last few months - I would suggest focusing on finishing them and the feeling of making progress will motivate you to finish the rest. Revising the literature review might not take as long as you think and the conclusions will be quicker to write when you have three complete results chapters.

Can I ask why you think you’ll crash and burn in the viva? Do you have worries about the quality of the work? What does your supervisor think?


I agree with kelpie. Everyone's progress is different - and this largely relates to the type of research project you took on, as well. For instance, sometimes you get results more quickly because everything goes swimmingly, and other times progress is a bit slower (or much slower), because the study in question is very exploratory.

I personally think expecting people to complete a PhD in three years is pretty tough, and depends largely on how things go with your studies. I think everybody thinks they'll crash and burn in their viva. Could you maybe ask your supervisor(s) for a mock viva to calm your nerves? Maybe your University's grad school has some advice service or something?

I think all PhD students writing up with deadlines looming are in a bit of a panic (including myself!) before the end. I just keep thinking about the light at the end of the tunnel (which, admittedly, might be a train...)


Hi Pixie -

Just wanted to say I'm in the same boat as you. 4th year, currently finishing my second chapter, with one more "big" chapter (approx 20k) and two "small" chapters (8k each) to go by end of October. Find keeping motivated/writer's block very difficult and would generally do about 3/4 good days work a week. The rest is procrastination, beating myself up and sleeping.

I think we just have to keep chipping away. I too spend a lot of time worrying about how others are finishing up in 3 years and I am struggling to do so in 4 but as you say, each project is different. For example, my original supervisor went off ill for 8 months during my first year, and then finally left, so I didn't have much supervision for approx one year. That has held me back. I consider myself a good student with a great c.v. and am just trying to positively reinforce this every day.

We have gotten this far, we can do it. Just got to keep chipping away.

Good luck! xx


Thanks for the replies, I'm feeling less panicky today. The sensible rational part of my brain knows that I can do this otherwise I wouldn't have been allowed to get this far, but occasionally the silly irrational part rears it's head and I get scared about whether I can finish and get through the viva.

I am nervous about it even though my supervisor seems fairly happy with my work as I don't feel like I've spent enough time talking about my work in front of others so I don't feel overly confident that I know what I'm talking about and I tend to find that my mind goes blank when people ask me detailed questions about my work.

Starsgoblue - I know what you mean about the procrastination, I seem to be doing a lot of that and I really don't want to but there are days where I seem to get loads done so I guess it will all balance out in the end. I'm trying to make sure that even on a bad day, as long as I can get a few paragraphs written etc it's better than nothing.


Does anyone have a sort of 'cycle' going on with their panicking? It seems to me that mine is always worst in the morning, on waking up and if I wake up during the night, but gets a bit better in the evening, just after work.
Isn't this kind of like the cycle for depressive symptoms? Lol someone should do a phd about this...